FORMER Cork City U17 Head coach Liam Kearney believes that more work needs to be done to bridge the gap between underage academies and senior football.
The retired winger, who had won a league title, FAI Cup, and Setanta Sports Cup as a player with City, had also been part of the senior side’s management team from 2017 to 2019.
Kearney, who signed for the Nottingham Forrest academy as a teenager from Fermoy United in 1999, says a development league or Cork City entering a team into the Munster Senior League would be the way forward for youth development.
“There is a big difference between underage and senior football,” he said.
“Especially the physical aspect. There is no substitute for that unless you are pushed into that environment in senior football. There are always one or two players who are ready for the step up to senior football at u19 level, but not the majority.
“When I was at Nottingham Forrest, the physical factor is why I didn’t get much of a chance to break into the first team. I remember talking to Paul Hart who said I wouldn’t be ready for first-team football until I was 22-years-old.
“Those two years are crucial for a player’s development. To bridge that gap, we need something like a reserve league or even Cork City entering a team into the Munster Senior League. This is something I have spoken to U19 manager Colin Healy about. I would love to see this happen as the players would get to play against men and there wouldn’t be too much travel costs on Cork City.”
An U21 or development league had been in place for League of Ireland clubs from 2008 to 2011 and Cork City participated each season.
Despite these reservations, Kearney is happy with the current pathway for developing young players in Ireland.
“The League of Ireland bringing in the U13, U15, U17, and U19 leagues has provided a proper pathway for young players,” he explained.
“The number of people who go on to have a professional career in England is very low. If you can stay in Ireland, you will stay in school, still see your friends, train under top-class professionals, and play against the best players your age in the country.
“A lot of coaches in England would have more respect for players who have broken into a first-team squad in Ireland instead of an U23 development squad in England. It is because the players will understand a competitive game and know about points being at stake. They will have already played against men which is invaluable over in England.”